I have had the dubious privilege of looking at some thousands of bad images as I work to select images for "Why Photographs Work". I had a look at Review Santa Fe as you can go to their website and look at previous accepted photographers - I was horrified at the quality of the images. There seems to be the idea in fine art circles that if an idea is sufficiently original, or if the subject is sufficiently important, that image quality matters not at all. The result is an incredible number of very banal, very ordinary, very boring images.
It is true that good composition and proper lighting and care to emphasize the important within the image are simply tools, and not goals of themselves. These tools exist however to help us get the most out of images, to understand the message as clearly as possible, to find hidden depths in images and to pick up the emotion created.
In many of the images I saw, of poverty and violence, of pollution and of life in genera, there has been no attempt to make the message clearer, to help the viewer understand what's going on or what's implied.
It is helpful to use other creative endevours to illustrate the point.
It is possible to write a novel about poor people in which the boring ordinary daily details of the characters lives overwhelms any message. There is no plot, we don't care about the characters because they have not been properly developed. Books like these rarely get read beyond the first chapter because they are boring. The worst don't even get published because the publisher knows they don't have a hope.
Oddly, in photography, there is no one who filters work, who says "thank you for your submission but your work is unsuited to our needs".
In selecting images for this book, I have found some wonderful images and some are far removed from the kind of thing I normally like. There is a manipulated SX-70 image that is wonderful, a Holga image, some composite exposures. There are HDR images in which the HDR serves to help instead of make the image look peculiar. There are images in which nothing is sharp, or where trickery has been used to great effect.
But people, there is so much bad photography out there, that has been promoted, celebrated, awarded, and admired. it is very sad.
Another analogy would be music. I don't especially like jazz, but I can recognize the skill involved in creating it. Rap music is 21st century poetry, I can admire the linguistic skills, but with all this crappy photography, I can't see the skill. The deficiency might be mine, but I suspect not. The emperor wears no clothes.